Saturday night’s bloody machete attack in Monsey, New York against a rabbi and his congregants celebrating Chanukah shocked in ways beyond its sheer brutality. This anti-Semitic assault by a man influenced by the “Black Hebrew Israelite” movement comes amidst a spate of crimes against Jews, with the New York Police Department now investigating six hate crimes that occurred during the holiday.
Certainly, churches, synagogues, and mosques are under siege in America, from Pittsburgh to Charleston, and from Los Angeles to Minnesota. However, under the pretense of protecting places of worship and faith-based nonprofits, Congress stands poised to spend millions of taxpayer dollars effectively providing pro-jihadist Islamist groups — with documented ties to overseas terrorist organizations — with their own private armed militias.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and co-sponsor Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) have put forth a new bill, the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act, which provides $75 million annually over the next five years for security to religious groups.
Lawmakers need to address two notable problems as they consider this security bill.
First, the proposal provides funding to 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamist groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society, and the Islamic Society of North America would therefore be eligible for funding under the plan, providing security dollars to advocacy organizations that share a common Islamist ideological heritage. Another network of Muslim nonprofits, including the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim Students Association, would also benefit from the bill despite being tied to Jamaat-e-Islami, a violent South Asian Islamist movement.
Assuredly, Islamists are not the only extremists exploiting 501(c)(3) laws; white nationalists also have a long history of doing the same thing.
Second, the bill fails to adequately limit how grant monies can be spent. It identifies three general types of uses for the funds: “Target hardening,” “security training,” and “any other appropriate activity.” But what is to prevent religious centers and nonprofits from hiring or training armed guards to enforce religious law?
Some Muslim American communities have previously recruited security guards to serve as enforcers of Islamic law. These vigilante patrols have often been less concerned with local security than they are with converting their neighbors, enforcing standards of dress, and prohibiting drug and alcohol use.
Sunni Muslim secu͏r͏i͏ty patrols can be traced back to January 1988, when New York City imam Siraj Wahhaj — listed as a potential un-indicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings — announced his “40 Days and 40 Nights” campaign to expel crack cocaine dealers from Brooklyn. Armed with guns and nightsticks, Wahhaj’s team of nearly 50 men drew recruits from homeless shelters and prison converts.
From this “40 Days” event arose a more formalized, permanent, and licensed group of paramilitary guards and enforcers, known as SSI Patrol Services. In 1991, a New York Times headline described SSI as “private police as violent as their enemy” and questioned whether the firm employed “Security Guards or Vigilantes?”
The imam’s foot soldiers had no concept of proportionality: “If they spill one pin drop of our blood, we spill gallons of theirs,” one member promised. And indeed, they followed through with this threat: One guard received a second degree murder charge, a second was held in a case involving the shooting of a disabled man, and a third faced a lawsuit for a brutal beating.
SSI was not the only Muslim paramilitary group with a questionable record. In 1996, The Washington Post exposed how the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) “Fruit of Islam” wing inspired the creation of multiple private security corporations that received “an estimated $20 million in public contracts in 10 cities.” Residents of areas patrolled by NOI security groups claimed “that guards paid with public money were proselytizing for Farrakhan, pestering residents to stop eating pork, go to the mosque or buy subscriptions to the Final Call, the Nation’s newspaper.”
BMT International Security Services is another black Muslim security group accused of defrauding the government and lying about its credentials to secure a $450,000 contract patrolling parks at the Port of Oakland. Such behavior was in keeping with the group’s background since “prosecutors have called it a cult that ran a wide-ranging criminal enterprise, committing crimes from real estate and mortgage fraud to murder.”
More recently, last year Wahhaj revived his Islamist security group under a new name: The Muslim Community Patrol (MCP). Just weeks after its founding, MCP members initiated a conflict when they attempted to stop a group of African-American men from smoking marijuana near a mosque. According to “Abdul,” an informant who attended an MCP meeting, Wahhaj said, “The mosques need protection and the MCP cars can help stop people who were not following the rules and regulations of the Sharia …”
“Everything is going to be Sharia,” Abdul explained. “That’s Wahhaj’s main thing. He’s working on a ‘one sheikh’ and ‘one government’ system that practices Sharia.”
Portman should therefore consider one major revision for his bill: Funds must be allocated to increase the presence of trained local police — not dangerous and unprofessional faith-based patrols. The fungibility of funding to Islamist groups must also be considered; every taxpayer dollar dispensed to these groups frees up funding for other extremist activities.
If there’s one thing at which American Islamists are particularly adept, it is exploitation of the good intentions of others. And indeed, the intentions behind this bill are obviously well-meaning, but for such efforts to succeed, Congress must recognize the potential for abuse.
David M. Swindle is a fellow for Islamist Watch and the Southern California associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid. He also works as the Director of Research for The Israel Group. Follow him on Twitter: @DaveSwindle.